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School alarm strategy

EDUCATION | Legislators in Tennessee hope better school evacuation protocols will save lives

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School alarm strategy
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TENNESSEE LAWMAKERS are considering a bill that would require schools to reexamine their fire alarm evacuation policies. Under the legislation, schools public and private would need to come up with a plan for determining whether a fire alarm was triggered by a fire or some other emergency, such as an active shooter on campus.

The bill comes in response to the March 2023 school shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville that killed three adults and three students. During that attack, third grade student William Kinney, 9, was killed after lining up to exit the classroom as fire alarms sounded in the school. Smoke from the shooter’s gun had triggered the alarms.

“My son diligently did his duty as the line leader of his class that day, attempting to lead them all to safety, and I am so proud of him,” William’s mother, Erin Kinney, told lawmakers in a letter. “But he gave his life for it.”

Under the bill’s current version, schools would be required to train staff and students how to respond if a smoke alarm goes off outside of a scheduled fire drill.

Republican Rep. William Lamberth introduced the bill, which passed the state House 97-0 on Feb. 8. Although Democratic legislators supported the measure, some still want to see stricter gun control as well. Gun control proposals since the Covenant shooting have failed to gain traction in Tennessee’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Covenant School has held classes at a different location since the shooting. In December, school officials announced the school would return to its campus in April.

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Solving for X

Education officials in San Francisco on Feb. 13 approved a plan to allow eighth graders to take algebra, reversing a 2014 policy restricting the subject to high school. Parents lobbied for the middle school algebra classes that can enable students to take calculus while still in high school. That helps them pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM fields.

The San Francisco Unified School District passed its previous policy due to concerns that early algebra perpetuated inequalities among underprivileged or underrepresented students, reasoning that more students would be ready to tackle the subject in high school. But ­critics said the district policy itself exacerbated social inequalities, since some families could afford outside algebra classes or tutoring for their children, while other families could not.

According to RAND survey results released Feb. 6, only 20 percent of U.S. principals said their schools offered algebra to any interested eighth grade student, while 65 percent said they offered it only to certain eighth graders. —L.D.

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


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